Saturday the 15th of May

...to the ends of the earth

“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Government must continue to tackle gambling harm

The Government must continue to address the harm gambling is having on our society, including online gambling and the “disturbing relationship” the gambling industry has with football, a Christian social policy charity has said.

Christian Action Research & Education’s (CARE) call came as the Gambling Commission warned that gamblers may turn to other forms of betting after the implementation of a £2 limit on gaming machines.

The maximum stake on highly addictive fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) has been cut from £100 to just £2, as new regulations came into force today, 1st April.

CARE, who campaigned for a £2 limit hailed the outcome as a step in the right direction and said the new limit could help save lives.

Dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, FOBTs offered a toxic combination of high-speed play and a high maximum stake where you could theoretically lose £300 in just one minute.

Research has shown that FOBTs are often clustered predominantly in deprived areas and the machines have also been linked to crippling debt, marriage and family breakdown, mental health issues and in extreme cases, suicide.

However, Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, which recommended the £2 cap on FOBTs last year, said players may now take up online, mobile or high street gambling after the stake cut, and has written to bookmakers reminding them of their responsibilities to consumers.

“Together with Government and the industry we must continue our ongoing work to make the whole industry safer – this includes continuing to make progress with making other products safer, as customers may move to gamble in other ways,” he said.

“It’s imperative that operators invest in and use data, technology and measures to identify harmful play and can step in to protect players when needed.

“They should be innovating to protect their customers, as much as they do to make a profit.”

CARE, while welcoming the maximum stake reduction, is now calling for a new, statutory levy on gambling firms to make sure they pay their fair share towards funding gambling addiction support.

“It is great to see the needs of gambling addicts put firmly before the interests of the bookies and the Government should be commended for doing the right thing and cutting the stakes,” Nola Leach, CARE’s chief executive, told The Catholic Universe.

“But there is much more work that needs to be done to tackle problem gambling in Britain. It’s fair to say that current gambling legislation is not working for anyone, including children and young people across Britain.

“The Government must address gambling relating harms and this must include a wider discussion about football’s disturbing relationship with the gambling industry, online gambling harms and making sure that there is sufficient and well-funded support for problem gamblers,” she continued.

“The next step should be making sure there is a statutory levy on gambling companies, so they pay their fair share to support addiction services.

“Our polling shows this would be popular with the wider population and let’s be honest, the bookies have had long enough the get their house in order.”

Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Reducing the potential loss per spin from £100 to £2 is a significant step forward in protecting vulnerable people.

“The Government’s actions and ambitions stretch much further and we are looking at further treatment of those who have suffered from gambling-related harm, whether gambling on credit should be limited and considering what actions are necessary to tackle problem gambling online.”

Stricter identity and age check rules for online gambling will also come into effect from May.

Picture: Archive photo, dated 4th August 2017, of a customer on a slot machine in a Paddy Power bookmakers in London. (Kathrin Kasper/dpa).